Is Ideology Invading Reviews of Pro-Troop, Pro-American 'Battle LA'?

The new hit action film “Battle: Los Angeles” isn’t perfect.

OK, that’s like saving Julian Assange has trouble keeping secrets.

“Battle” is dopey to the core, with giggle-inducing dialogue, shaky cams gone wild and a host of other structural issues. But perusing a few of the critical responses to “Battle” yields something else “wrong” with the film. It doesn’t march lockstep with some critics’ ideological fault lines.

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The movie brands U.S. Marines as heroes, showing how noble and brave they are in the face of an alien onslaught. It’s not the typical theme you see in movies today, especially ones with a military component.

Consider this review in The Washington Post:

Did somebody mention Iraq? “Battle’s” depiction of block-by-block urban combat against an implacable, enigmatic foe evokes Baghdad at its bloodiest. But director Jonathan Liebesman (whose background is in horror flicks) isn’t interested in allegory, nuance or social comment. He just wants to line up platinum-plated space-squids to be blown away.

And Roger Ebert, an avowed liberal, hated the film so much he called anyone who disagreed with him an “idiot.”

Left of center Movieline seemed aghast that the film shows the Marines in a glowing light:

Christopher Bertolini’s script is notable for its recruitment pamphlet-level of dedication to the glory of the U.S. Marines. As if the way superhero handsome [Aaron ]Eckhart fills out a helmet and chinstrap doesn’t say it all, Bertolini has him huffing on about showing the enemy how Marines fight, reminding his colleagues that Marines don’t quit, and giving glittery-eyed speeches about how even when Marines make the wrong decision at least they have the courage to make a decision. (Note to George W.: I think I just found your new favorite movie.) … Shadowy Vietnam allusions crop up here and there — particularly a last, frantic airlift out of L.A. — but on the whole “Battle: Los Angeles” is the emptiest form of sci-fi action: Just one bloody (or alien gooey) thing after another.

Slant Magazine sees the film as propaganda, plain and simple.

The film is plainly cut from the mold of old-school military propaganda films and rejected “Call of Duty” missions, mixing righteously ideological statements about faith and honor with emotionally manipulative dialogue sequences, all in the attempt to maximize its potential for cinematic offspring … All anybody can do, characters and cinema patrons alike, is survive the madness long enough to see the light. For Nantz [Eckhart] and his crew, that equates to a rejuvenation of national pride and purpose.

Salon.com sees the film as an example of “imperial decline.”

First of all, it’s like the movie is trying to make Americans feel better about the fact that our ultra-high-tech military has been stalemated by a bunch of 15th-century tribalist wackos with 30-year-old Kalashnikovs on the other side of the world … I realized that the movie’s real reversal is psychological, in that it depicts this band of gung-ho, multicultural United States Marines as resistance fighters, striking at the underbelly of an occupying army. Allah-u-akbar! That’s right; if there’s any tenuous parallel to contemporary affairs at work here, it casts the Americans as the guerrilla insurgents. We never learn a damn thing about the alien invaders in “Battle: Los Angeles” — beyond the evident fact that they want our planet without us on it — which is why you can call it a war movie or a disaster movie, but it isn’t really science fiction. They’re a fantasy enemy vomited up from the collective id and scrubbed clean of all racial, political or religious considerations, against whom we can look like noble underdogs. Or they’re just the underpowered villains of an unintentionally funny action movie starring Aaron Eckhart’s chin. Either way, we’re talking serious symptoms of imperial decline.

Kudos to The New York Times’ A.O. Scott for addressing the movie, and its flaws, head on:

No interesting political implications to chew over, as in “District 9,” and no truly breathtaking special effects. Just some slimy creatures with heavy firepower laying waste to the smog-bound skyline and a hearty band of Marines (with a handful of civilians and a tough-as-nails Air Force sergeant thrown in for diversity) fighting a running street battle.

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